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Guide to the Voices of Brooklyn oral histories 2008.031

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201
718-222-4111
library@brooklynhistory.org


Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Brett Dion

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on November 10, 2017
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Voices of Brooklyn oral histories: Community activists, 2007-

Scope and Contents

This series includes oral histories collected through several projects undertaken by Brooklyn Historical Society beginning in 2007. The assembled series took shape in 2008 under the project title "Brooklyn History Makers." The ongoing oral history collection, retitled in 2016, features a range of narrators: Civil rights activists, documenters, and preservationists among them, who describe the changes they have observed in their neighborhoods and in society over decades.

Harris, Pam, 2013 October 18

Biographical / Historical

Pam Harris has lived in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn all her life. She attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice, St. Joseph's College, and Capella University, where she received a master's degree in Human Development and Family Studies. A retired corrections officer in 2013, she devoted her time to local community efforts including the founding of the non-profit organization for youth; Coney Island Generation Gap. An advocate for restoring services following Superstorm Sandy, Harris was elected to the New York State Assembly in 2015.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Pam Harris reflects on growing up in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn and identifies the diversity there. She speaks about retiring, but never ceasing to work on community-focused projects, and starting up a youth program that enables young people (her "kids") to create video productions in their free time. Harris recounts, in nearly hour-by-hour detail, when Superstorm Sandy made landfall and the immediate effects it had on her family and her neighbors. She recalls her efforts at outreach; checking on neighbors, gathering supplies, and preparing meals in the early days, then repairing her home, making a new effort at her youth organization and advocating for funds and repairs for Coney Island at large. Interview conducted by Manissa McCleave Maharawal.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Harris, Pamela

Subject Organizations

  • Coney Island Generation Gap

Subject Topics

  • Children -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Community activists -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hurricane damage -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Hurricane Sandy, 2012
  • Mental health
  • Neighborhoods -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Nonprofit organi-ations -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Urban beautification -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • Coney Island (New York, N.Y.)

Holtz, Joe, 2008 September 5

Biographical / Historical

Joe Holtz is a founding member, served on the Board of Directors, and remains a General Coordinator of the Park Slope Food Coop, a food cooperative market in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. Holtz became an adult in the late 1960s, when multiple social causes were trending mainstream. Awareness of food science also grew in the early 1970s, and that period overlapped with Holtz's arrival in New York City. He settled in Park Slope as a renter and later as a homeowner. With other founders in place, the Coop opened in February of 1973 and management began tinkering with how to make the cooperative system of customers/owners/workers a viable, sustainable operation. The Coop was originally in a space that was sublet by a community center. In 1978, with over a thousand members, the Coop made a down payment to buy 782 Union Street. Two neighboring buildings were purchased in the two decades that followed. In 2016, membership was between 16,000 and 17,000.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Joe Holtz identifies the various strains of food cooperatives and how Park Slope Food Coop fits in with the members-only ownership and sales model. He recalls the founding principles of the Coop, and the other models of coops on the city marketplace in the early 1970s. He discusses the rollout of their labor strategy and the growing interest in food sources and research in that era. He speaks about the physical spaces the Coop has occupied, some organizing principles, and membership fluctuations. Holtz points out several ways the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn has benefitted from the Coop's practices. He also sees the pressures that gentrification is having on the area, in general and through firsthand examples. With the Coop a success, he has advised other newly-forming coops. In closing, Holtz speaks to the benefits and tensions of the rules for members working at the Coop, the approach to product boycotts, and how the Board of Directors functions. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Holtz, Joseph

Subject Organizations

  • Park Slope Food Coop

Subject Topics

  • Community organi-ing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Environmentalism -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Food -- Social aspects
  • Food supply -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Markets -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Social justice -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Buildings, structures, etc.
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social life and customs
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Park Slope (New York, N.Y.)

Jackson, Esther Cooper, 2010 February 8

Biographical / Historical

Esther Cooper Jackson was born in in Arlington, Virginia in 1917. The younger of two children, her father was an officer in the Army and her mother was a bureaucrat who worked for the Forest Service, as well as an activist. Jackson graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. She went to Oberlin College and then onto Fisk University, where she received a master's degree in sociology. Jackson moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1940 to work on a voter registration project; spending seven years working there as a community organizer. She met her husband during that era, and they later decided to move to New York City in the early 1950s. Settling in Brooklyn, Jackson began working as an activist and board member with the Committee to Defend Negro Leadership. In 1961, she became a founding member and managing editor of the magazine Freedomways. She continued at the magazine for a quarter century. Jackson followed that with work as an activist and speaker, all while living in the same apartment in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn since 1963. As recently as 2015, she had donated many personal papers to the New York University library.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Esther Cooper Jackson begins by describing the lives of her mother and father. Among many of her own biographical details, she talks about her early life in Arlington, Virginia and her education. She notes her thesis at Fisk University has been re-discovered by a number of contemporary academics. Jackson discusses the seven years she spent working as a community organizer in Birmingham, Alabama. She gives a basic picture of the civil inequalities African-Americans faced in the South. Jackson recalls her move to Brooklyn and her involvement in Freedomways magazine, a Black quarterly dedicated to art and culture. Throughout, she shares details and anecdotes about her daughters. The interview ends with her reflections on the change in the racial makeup of the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn in the late 2000s. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and the Oral History Portal. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt)
  • Jackson, Esther Cooper

Subject Organizations

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
  • Freedomways Associates
  • National Committee to Defend Negro Leadership
  • Pratt Institute
  • Southern Negro Youth Congress

Subject Topics

  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- History -y 20th century
  • African Americans -x Civil rights -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Community organi-ing -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Editors -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Segregation -- United States -x History
  • Social justice -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Social conditions
  • Brownsville (New York, N.Y.)
  • Fort Greene (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Southern States |x History
  • Virginia

Pearsall, Nancy, 2007 February 15 and 21

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to this recording is restricted by the donor. Please contact library@brooklynhistory.org for further questions.

Wolfe, Maxine, 2008 September 2

Biographical / Historical

Maxine Wolfe was born in 1941 and raised in a working-class, Jewish family in Brooklyn. Attending public school, she graduated from New Utrecht High School at age sixteen. Wolfe went on to Brooklyn College, receiving an undergraduate degree in psychology. She attained her doctoral degree in social psychology from the City University of New York (CUNY). Later, Wolfe was a professor in that school's Environmental Psychology Program. Having had an interest in activism since her teens, Wolfe joined and supported several organizations, being a notable mentor in ACT UP beginning in 1987. In 1984, while living in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, Wolfe began attending weekly volunteer meetings of the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA). With the collections growing, LHA fundraised and coordinated the purchase of a house in Park Slope in 1990. The Archives were moved there from the Upper West Side apartment of founder Joan Nestle in 1993. As of 2017, Wolfe remains a coordinator at LHA and a professor emeritus at CUNY's Graduate Center.

Scope and Contents

In the interview, Maxine Wolfe describes the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA) in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. She lists the variety of collected genre types and, much later, the arrangement of the material; filling in with broad overviews and some specific details about the intellectual content of LHA. She recalls joining as a volunteer, and the event of moving the collection to a Park Slope house. Wolfe shares some history of LHA itself and some insight into its administration in the 2000s. She considers the community interaction of LHA and Park Slope, as well as the effects of gentrification, activism and homogenization in the area. Returning to the internal activity of the Archives, Wolfe gives an overview of the visiting researchers and guests, the collection policy, staffing, and decision-making. In conclusion, she emphasizes the open access principles of LHA. Interview conducted by Sady Sullivan.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access is available onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library. Use of oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting library@brooklynhistory.org.

Subject Names

  • Nestle, Joan
  • Wolfe, Maxine

Subject Organizations

  • Lesbian Herstory Archives

Subject Topics

  • Activism
  • Activists -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Community organi-ing -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Gentrification -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • History -x Research -- North America
  • Lesbians
  • Libraries -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Social justice -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Social movements -- United States
  • Women -- United States -x Social conditions

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